Prosecutors have dropped charges against two Monroe County deputies who fought with three Navy sailors on Duval Street in Key West late last month.
Monroe County State Attorney “no action” documents announcing the decision filed Monday state that Key West police failed to view or collect bystander video before arresting both men.
Regarding the felony battery charge that Deputy Trevor Dawson Pike faced, Assistant State Attorney Val E. Winter wrote that his “actions were justified under the circumstances to defend himself” based on witness cellphone video.
And the video showed Deputy Connor Scott Curry “did not engage in any conduct which was criminal or unjustified,” Winter wrote. Curry was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge. The deputies were off-duty and not in uniform.
Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward said the decision was made after reviewing the cellphone video, footage from the police officers’ body cameras and the reports.
“Deputy Pike was protecting himself and acted in self-defense,” Ward said.
Key West police arrested Pike, 25, and Curry, 23, after the early morning fight on Dec. 18. Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay immediately announced his deputies were suspended without pay.
But several days later, a group of women who witnessed the fight and filmed it sent him the footage that Ramsay said clearly showed Pike was defending himself against the sailors, and that Curry largely stayed out of the altercation.
By the end of the week, the sheriff reinstated Pike and Curry and put them back on patrol.
Ramsay declined to comment Tuesday on the Key West Police Department’s investigation of the fight, but said he was pleased with the State Attorney’s Office’s decision.
“At the end of the day, the two officers have been vindicated. And, at the end of the day, my assessment of the incident has been validated,” Ramsay said.
The fight left one sailor, James Black, with serious head injuries after Pike punched him in the face and his head hit the sidewalk pavement. Two of the other sailors, Angel Low, 26, and Jose Bejar Jr., 22, were arrested on disorderly conduct charges.
However, the charges against Low were dropped, Ward said Tuesday.
Bejar and, despite his injuries, Black are being charged. Witnesses said Black was one of the most egregious aggressors.
Several witnesses told Key West police that the sailors repeatedly tried to start a fight with Pike and Curry, according to body camera footage. The women who took the video also told responding Key West police officers that the off-duty deputies were defending themselves.
Key West Police Officer Thomas Clark was one of the first officers to arrive at the scene. He was recorded on body camera video telling his supervising officer, Sgt. Alex Rodriguez, it appeared Pike was defending himself.
Nevertheless, Rodriguez ordered his officers to arrest everyone but Black, who was airlifted to a Miami hospital that day, on disorderly conduct charges and Pike on felony battery.
Ramsay said last month that the order was given without collecting evidence or witness testimony, adding that had he not seen the video, his deputies’ law enforcement careers would be over.
“A poor investigation was done and a hasty decision was made,” Ramsay told the Miami Herald/FLKeysnews.com.
Ward on Tuesday said Rodriguez “completely ignored” what Clark told him and had the two deputies arrested.
“I don’t know why the sergeant did that,” Ward said.
Key West Police Chief Sean Brandenburg wasn’t available for comment on Tuesday.
In December, Brandenburg told the Miami Herald/FLKeysNews.com: “I am not going to second guess the decision of my officers. It is up to the state attorney and the judge to decide whether the arrested men are at fault.”
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